Sixteen years after our League One play-off final win against Swansea City, we spoke to one of this season’s heroes, Daniel Nardiello, who scored that afternoon at the Millennium Stadium.

The competition eventually went to penalties in the Welsh capital, with Barnsley registering all four successful penalties while the Swans watched Adebayo Akinfenwa clear the crossbar before Nick Colgan saved Alan Tate’s attempt to set off wild scenes among Reds supporters

“I remember it very well – it’s personally one of the greatest highlights of my career,” Nardiello called back. “The whole atmosphere and the day, the day before coming down and staying at the hotel; it is something you will never forget.

“Obviously we had a great fan base there that day. Most people will say they were the better team throughout the game and we persevered and won on penalties.

“It’s something I will never forget and my family will never forget; It was a fantastic opportunity for players, staff and fans.”

After taking an early lead through Paul Hayes, the Reds were 2-1 down thanks to goals from former strikers Rory Fallon and Andy Robinson.

But just after the hour mark, Nardiello curled a wonderful free-kick into Willy Guéret’s bottom corner, leaving the French goalkeeper rooted to the spot, equalizing and eventually forcing extra time.

The Reds celebrate after Nick Colgan's penalty save

“I think I scored three free-kicks in my time at Barnsley.” he discussed. “While I was there we had some good free-kick takers and Stephen McPhail was the main free-kick taker but he took one in the previous game and didn’t score and I really loved that one in the final.

“They let me have it and luckily for me it crawled into the bottom corner.

“A lot of people say it was a garbage strike – and I can understand why they say that – but the gap was there and it was obvious to meet them there.

“Martin Devaney sort of shielded the ball from the keeper and blocked his view so it looked really easy. So I saw that little gap and the keeper stood still and by the time it was past him it was too late.

Nardiello also scored the goal that famously sent us to Cardiff when we came from behind in the first leg at Huddersfield Town.

Trailing 1-0 to West Yorkshire, Hayes equalized the tie before Jon Worthington scored midway through the second half. But the Reds rallied again minutes later through Paul Reid and eventually secured a place in the final when Nardiello was the quickest to react to smash home after Paul Rachubka fumbled Brian Howard’s fierce shot from long range.

“I scored a couple of important goals” reflected our former striker. “In the last game against Walsall I scored the winner to secure the playoffs and then the winner against Huddersfield, a game I will never forget.

The Reds celebrate promotion to the championship

“I scored pretty late to win the game and the fans just freaked out. It was a great atmosphere that night as it was a local derby and then it was also a good time to score in the final.

“I’m really happy to have scored those goals but ultimately it was just more important that we got the wins at the right time and it was great to have that success with the dressing room and the staff. Morale was great and I will never forget that because we all worked very hard to get promoted.”

It was a strange end to the campaign for Barnsley, who have won just two of their last 12 games – drawing eight – and finished in the top six, three points clear of Nottingham Forest.

However, Nardiello insists he and his teammates haven’t thought about their form ahead of going into the playoffs and that confidence in the dressing room has been a key factor in promotion.

“Once you’re in the playoffs, you know you have a shot and you can win a game on any day.” he said. “Looking back at our squad, from the goalkeeper to the front two, we had a fantastic team.

“We had players who could play in multiple positions so I believed in our squad that we could go all the way and luckily for us we did really well against Huddersfield – especially from the back in their place; it was an incredible night of football.

“Then in the final you’re still evaluating your chances in a one-off game and like I said with the players we had I had confidence but it was always going to be difficult. We were the least popular of the teams but we proved everyone wrong.”

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